Public health emergencies often occur in the place least likely to be able to manage them, and western Africa was poorly prepared for the latest outbreak of Ebola. However, as much as an overwhelmed world might fervently hope that it will remain an African problem, its impact will be felt far beyond the borders of Liberia and its neighbours. Ebola outranks everything else on a crowded global agenda today, and the quicker we acknowledge this, the more effectively it can be contained.
I always thought education alone could solve diet-related health crises. Given the right information, people make informed, healthy decisions, right? But what if truly effective solutions require more than just education? What if they require government intervention? My conversation with Dr. Schmidt nudged me to consider this possibility.
Behaviour is triggered and controlled subconsciously without us even realising it. Trying to think about our condition logically and rationally rarely achieves anything because the unconscious part of our mind is so incredibly powerful that it will almost always over-ride any remedial action we try. Only by retuning the unconscious can progress against obesity ever be made.
March 17th marked the opening of the 12th International Congress on Obesity in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. To get the conference off to a good start, the organisers - The World Obesity Federation - decided to put their money where their mouth was and turn off the escalators in the conference centre. If only they'd put their brains there instead.
The reality is the more forms doctors and nurses have to fill in, the more boxes they have to tick, the less time they have to spend caring for patients. While it's only right to expect our medical professionals to follow best practice and be accountable for their work, tying them up with excessive form-filling doesn't help.
Since taking up my post at the Department of Health I have seen, first-hand, the work done every day by doctors, nurses, healthcare assistants and everyone else that makes up our great NHS, to improve and restore the health of our nation. However sometimes a patient's fate is out of their control and in the hands of someone like me and you - an organ donor.
Cycling provides a brilliant antidote sickness and the costs associated with it. We recently discovered that 68% of people that use our National Cycle Network threw not a single sickie last year. Just by riding to work every day, we can improve our health to such an extent that we reduce the number of sick days we take to almost half.
Many younger gay men these days have not seen their friends die of AIDS-related illnesses, and there certainly isn't the fear around HIV which their once was. There is a difficult balance to strike here: we don't want to stigmatise HIV further yet at the same time it is difficult to combat the damaging "I don't care" attitude without emphasising the serious nature of the HIV infection.